Nan A. Talese: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Cassandra

In The Cassandra, the eccentric Mildred Groves goes to work as a secretary at the Hanford research center. Situated by the Columbia River in a remote corner of Washington State, the top-secret Hanford site is host to hundreds of scientists and workers building a "product" to put an end to World War II. Mildred is thrilled at the opportunity to leave her unhealthy relationship with her mother behind and apply herself to meaningful, patriotic work with a "gallant dutifulness," but the longer she spends at Hanford, the more she begins to see its darker side. Wracked with visions and night terrors that tell of the product's violent, cruel future, Mildred is caught in an unkind world that seems determined to ignore her no matter the costs.

Sharma Shields (The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac) has re-created the Hanford research site--a part of the 1940s' Manhattan Project--with a great eye for historical detail. More than just the place, however, Shields's well-crafted novel succeeds in capturing the feel of Hanford and the moment in history it occupied. A sense of pervasive patriarchy seeps across every page, in many ways as damaging to the characters at Hanford as the product on which they are working. This historical detail, combined with Mildred's surreal, dream-like visions of the future, gives The Cassandra an edge of magical realism. The result is a compelling reimagining of a particular period in United States history, itself a testament to the many ways "humans have only ever been at the mercy of one another." --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm